A delegation of United States-based National Democratic Institute (NDI) and International Republican Institute (IRI) has stated that Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) will not be the only main contenders for the 2023 election as a viable third force has emerged.
The institute, while presenting its first joint pre-elections assessment statement and report on Osun State governorship election, stated that Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) and Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP) may force the 2023 contest into a re-run.
The delegation of the NDI/IRI which visited Nigeria from July 13-22, was led by Secretary of State for State of Ohio, USA, Mr. Frank LaRose.
The delegation pointed out that the 2023 elections would be a departure from some of the political dynamics that defined previous elections in Nigeria.
The report said, “If a third party draws sufficient support, a runoff presidential election could be a real possibility for the first time since the transition to democracy, adding complexity to the 2023 elections.”
The institute added that the 2023 elections present a significant opportunity to consolidate Nigeria’s democracy, especially since the 2022 Electoral Act enjoys a wide stakeholder support and has elevated public confidence in the commitment of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to deliver credible elections.
“The 2023 elections are a departure from some of the political dynamics that defined previous polls. For the first time since 2007, the presidential election will be an open contest with no incumbent. The ruling All Progressives Congress selected former Lagos governor, Bola Tinubu, as its flagbearer. Former Vice President and 2019 presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, will contest on the ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party.”
“However, the emergence of Peter Obi -former Anambra State governor and presidential candidate for the Labour Party and Rabiu Kwankwaso- former Kano governor and presidential candidate for the New Nigeria People’s Party, as viable ‘Third Forces’ has excited many young Nigerians.”
The institute said that the first elections held since the electoral law was passed, which is the Ekiti and Osun governorship election, demonstrated the positive impact of initiatives implemented by INEC since 2019 to improve results’ transparency.
It said such measures included the introduction of the INEC Result Viewing Portal and elimination of voting points, and adoption and proper configuration of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System for voter accreditation, which has quickened the voting process and reduced tensions in polling units.
“The recent surge in voter registration numbers and increased voter turnout in the 2022 Osun polls, especially among young people, point to a renewed interest in political participation among Nigerians. However, there are questions about whether the 2022 Electoral Act will be fully implemented and whether political parties will take advantage of this increased enthusiasm to engage Nigerians on issues that matter to them. There are also questions about whether these new technologies — IReV and BVAS – will perform at the same level when scaled up for the national elections”, the organisations said.
The institutes said, while there had been some positive changes since the 2019 elections, stakeholders with whom its delegation met expressed concern about the direction of the country.
According to them, confidence in the government and elections has declined over the past 10 years, “as exemplified by the #EndSARS movement that gained traction in 2020 to protest security forces abuses.”
“In addition, insecurity has deepened, spreading to every corner of the country. Extremist and sectarian violence continues to spread, banditry and criminality are endemic, separatist elements are gaining traction, and informal security forces are proliferating.
“This intensifying violence takes place against the backdrop of increasing religious and regional division permeating the political discourse. If the 2023 polls fail to improve upon past elections, Nigerians may lose faith in the ability of democracy to deliver,” it warned.